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24 Nov 2020

Dante Pesce, Vice-Chair UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights

Remarks by Vice-Chair UN Working Group at virtual forum "Towards a Common Approach to Sustainable Supply Chains and Due Diligence"

Under the UNGPs, all business enterprises have a responsibility to respect human rights, and the process of continuously conducting human rights due diligence (HRDD) is a core requirement for businesses in fulfilling that responsibility.

The Working Group also considers that HRDD is a key tool in the global efforts to build forward better in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic...

The UNGPs also set out the legal and policy implications for how to operationalize the State duty protect through a “smart mix” of measures that include legally binding measures, particularly where voluntary measures continue to leave significant gaps in human rights protections. Indeed, the UNGPs anticipated the development of mandatory measures that codify the expectations of the UNGPs into hard law.

The Working Group is encouraged by the current momentum toward mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) regimes across a growing number of jurisdictions, particularly in the EU context.

The consensus among participants across all sectors and all geographies at last week’s UN Forum on Business and Human Rights is that laws are coming. Our future is one of mandatory measures. We now have a strong evidence-base that voluntary measures aren’t getting us where we need to be. There is broad agreement that mandatory measures should be based on the UNGPs and rights-holders should have seats at the table as measures are developed.

It is encouraging to note that increasingly, businesses and investors, alongside civil society organizations, are calling for effective mHRDD legislation...

It is critical for mandatory measures to:

  • Drive coherence across efforts...
  • Be based on meaningful and inclusive stakeholder consultations, including with stakeholders affected by and involved with the full value chain...
  • Cover all internationally recognized human rights and all types of adverse human rights impacts.
  • Apply across value chains, not just within supply chains.
  • Cover all companies and other forms of business enterprises incorporated or domiciled in the relevant jurisdiction and all foreign business enterprises which sell goods or services in the relevant jurisdiction, and apply to both groups’ extraterritorial operations and business relationships.
  • Apply to the government as an economic actor...
  • Facilitate both vertical and horizontal policy coherence.
  • Go beyond reporting regimes and require meaningful processes and outcomes.
  • Require businesses to take measures that facilitate access to effective justice and remedy.
  • Set out clear compliance monitoring and enforcement structures and procedures that facilitate access to effective justice and remedy.

Building out regulatory responses is a key issue for the Working Group's ongoing efforts to develop a roadmap to advance implementation of the UNGPs in the next decade, through our “UNGPs10+” project.